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Amstel Gold Race Preview

Beer, sunshine and big crowds for a bike race. The Amstel Gold Race a good formula even if it’s the young upstart of the spring classics in relative terms, having only begun in 1966. It marks the change from the flat classics to the hillier races and there’s a broad field with grand tour contenders tuning up for summer and cobbled classics specialists having a last hurrah. Here’s a race preview with the usual look at the course, contenders, TV times and more.

The Route: 267km 5km more than last year but otherwise the same which explains why the race website uses the same map from 2018. There’s about 3,500m of vertical gain, impressive for a day’s racing in the Netherlands. It’s all packed into a narrow area on a course that twists and turns so much it’s one of those days where the headset feels like an important component for once.

In total there are 35 climbs, albeit with some counted two or even three times. Many are not hard, typically a gradient of 5% for a kilometre although a few do have double-digit slopes and the Keutenberg, the nation’s steepest road, maxes at 22% and comes with 29km to go. If one hill climb is fine, 35 hill reps hurt. The vertical gain adds up but it’s the fight to be at the front that really takes its toll, these are narrow climbs that string out the field and the approach roads are often narrow and twisty. Anyone badly placed will waste energy trying to get back up and so they’ll start the next climb in a worse way and so begins the vicious cycle that ruins their chances. All this is harder still thanks to a course that looks like an open-air catalogue of street furniture and traffic calming measures.

The Finish: the old finish atop the Cauberg hill has long gone. They climb the Cauberg, ride on to the finish line and then do a final lap and dives in and out of small lanes, the idea is to string out what’s left of the race and encourage attacks. After returning to the main road they climb the Bemelerberg (1.3km at 3%, a brief moment at 6%) and turn off again after the top into the apple orchards, this road dips down and then rises at around 3% before they reach the main road. The finishing straight is 900 metres long and slightly downhill.

The Contenders
Another spring classic, another opportunity for Deceuninck-Quickstep. Past winner Philippe Gilbert returns but he’s not the “Phil” of old who could attack on the Cauberg and power to the win but neither is the course the same, the flatter finish could still suit him. But Julian Alaphilippe is their best bet but not a certainty, a hard crash took him out of the Tour of the Basque Country and if he’s over the bruising it’s taken a toll in missed races. Still he can climb and sprint so he should be a factor in the race.

Mathieu van der Poel (Correndon-Circus) s the home pick, he’s been targeting this race to the point of saying non merci last autumn when ASO invited his team to ride Paris-Roubaix, preferring to focus on this race at home in a year when he’s the reigning national champion. He’ll be roared on by a giant crowd and has just what it takes to win, he’s explosive on repeat climbs and on his day can win bunch sprints so he can win out of a sizeable group. Distance isn’t a problem as the Tour of Flanders showed and he’s just won the Brabantse Pijl. So far, so good but his versatility means he can spread himself too thin rather than stick to one plan and he’ll be heavily marked.

Wout van Aert leads Jumbo-Visma, if Van der Poel is a contender than surely “WVA” is too? He was impressive in Paris-Roubaix for his resilience but he’s not a proven contender on a hilly course like this, he’s been strong in the Strade Bianche but a few kilos heavier which may count against him here.

Michael Matthews is a safe pick for a sprint finish, he’s good out of a small group and leads Team Sunweb who, despite the German flag, are a Dutch team at heart and HQ.

Team Sky were arguably upstaged by their gimmicky Pinarello frame which probably got more coverage last weekend than their rider,  but now they’re on terrain that suits them much more. Wout Poels is a local but form unknown while Michał Kwiatkowski is a past winner and normally a strong pick but had a hard crash in the Basque Country, the same high speed crash as Alaphilippe and this is his first race back.

On paper every Astana rider but one can win with Laurens De Vreese on domestique duty. Alexey Lutsenko is versatile and won the U23 world championships on these roads, Omar Fraile is a strong and clever rider but Jacob Fuglsang sits higher in the hierarchy and is having a good season although he remains a very infrequent winner.

Alberto Bettiol is back in action for EF Education First and a decent pick but he’ll be heavily marked this time. Michael Woods is an outside pick too but the finish lacks a really intense climb for him and with the new Liège course his best bet might be next Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) used to attack a lot but not win, now he attacks and often wins. His problem though is that if he attacks late in the race he’s likely to be accompanied by riders who can beat him in the sprint. Watch out for Jelle Vanendert, a rider who is quiet for much of the year but often pops up for a strong result in the Amstel and the Ardennes week.

It’s Greg Van Avermaet’s last race of the spring classics season and if he’s weighed on races at times, he hasn’t shaped them except for the Omloop all those weeks ago and must be running on fumes by now. CCC team mate Patrick Bevin is a long range outsider, strong and with a handy sprint but it’s hard to see him surprising everyone else.

It’s crunch time for Peter Sagan, if he’s lost weight to contend in the Ardennes then we’ll see how his lighter build fares on the bergs. It’s a race he’s yet to win and the succession of climbs has been too much for him in the past and if he’s looked below par, he’s still a rider who can win when he’s at 90%. Bora-Hansgrohe are showing much more depth this year, once upon a time they resembled a pro conti team with Peter Sagan bolted on but now Max Schachmann can be a second card to play, he’s had an excellent Tour of the Basque Country but if that race has twisty climbs, the Amstel is more intense in places and he’s only ridden once before.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has been on the podium three times but never the top step and if it sometimes seems like he never rusts, he’s not as quick the sprints these days so it’s not easy to win here. Carlos Betancur is back to winning ways in time for the Ardennes but only just.

Dimension Data return with three former winners of the race which is a neat anecdote but what they need is an antidote to the bad luck the team has been suffering from with more illness and injuries and so far their big signing for 2019, Michael Valgren, last year’s winner, has had one top-10 this season, a 10th place in February at that. Still Valgren is a smart and talented rider capable of surprise so don’t rule him out. It’s harder to see how Roman Kreuziger and Enrico Gasparotto win but they could place for a top-10 and helpful ranking points for a team looking over its shoulder and worrying if it’ll be overtaken by Cofidis and Israel Cycling Academy on the sporting rankings.

Finally Dylan Teuns leads for Bahrain-Merida with Matej Mohorič as a second option for the team. Ag2r La Mondiale have Romain Bardet, presumably preparing for Liège while Oliver Naesen climbs better than we might assume for a cobble-eater (remember Paris-Nice’s final stage?) and Benoît Cosnefroy just won Paris-Camember but he’s probably not gouda chance here. Katusha-Alpecin’s Nathan Haas has thrived here before but hasn’t raced for a month. Groupama-FDJ’s Valentin Madouas is impresssive this year, UAE-Emirates’s Diego Ulissi is coming into form but a long shot these days, Israel Academy’s Ben Hermans is a strong, powerful rider and Wanty-Gobert’s Odd Eiking is good for uphill finishes but the field is surely too deep for him. Last Daryl Impey leads for Mitchelton-Scott but how to beat all the riders above?

Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe
Michael Matthews
Max Schachmann, Philippe Gilbert
Bettiol, Kwiatkowksi, Wellens, Sagan, Lutsenko, WVA, Fuglsang
GVA, Valgren, Valverde, Bevin, Poels, Woods, Teuns

Weather: a sunny day and a top temperature of 24°C with a 10km/h breeze from the NE.

TV: the race starts at 10.30 CEST and the finish is forecast at 5.10pm. It’s on NOS in the Netherlands and then Eurosport across most of Europe and beyond.

Women’s Amstel: the women race between 10.50 and 2.30pm with the same finishing circuits as the man. If you’ve found a good preview share in the comments below and it can be added here. It’s on TV too in the Netherlands and beyond.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paomag Saturday, 20 April 2019, 8:40 pm

    My same top thee!

  • not yoda Saturday, 20 April 2019, 9:52 pm

    Is this a record? 31 names mentioned not including all Astana contenders and domestique Laurens de Vreese.
    19 riders getting a ring rating. Hopefully exciting open race tomorrow!

  • gabriele Saturday, 20 April 2019, 10:35 pm

    “Past winner Philippe Gilbert returns but he’s not the ‘Phil’ of old who could attack on the Cauberg and power to the win”.

    Of course, the Phil of not-that-old in not-so-far-back 2017 had to power to the win on the Bemeleberg, not the Cauberg ^__^

    It was the sort of *mild* and *seasoned* attack only Kwiatkowski could follow, before being outsprinted to the line by “diesel” Gilbert. Yep, that meek guy from Poland who had won Sanremo and Strade Bianche the month before, not a classy nor explosive guy at all 😛

    Come on, Gilbert gave some hint about changing his prep and all the world jumped on a brand new stereotype. Irrespective of the sense which it makes or not when checked against road facts. Not that I’m saying with the above that Gilbert is a main favourite or whatever (well, he’s pretty much dangerous in any race), I’m just a little tired of the idée reçue!

    • Hamilton Saturday, 20 April 2019, 11:50 pm

      Tottaly agree with you. He may win # 5. As dangerous as he has been.

    • Larry T Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:43 am

      +1
      One question for Mr. Inrng: You wrote “…strong in the Strade Bianche but a few kilos heavier which may count against him here.” about WvA. Does this mean he’s gained some weight since that race or is heavier than you think is ideal in general? As in heavier than…?
      PS- I’m happy to find out I’m not the only one who thinks Pinarello’s bike at P-R was “gimmicky”. Are there enough well-heeled dentist types who want to think (as the TV car ads say) they COULD (not that they would) ride over a cobble or two someday? Meanwhile, their “gravel” bike seems to depend only on it’s fattish tires for suspension. Am I the only one confused by this? Unless the marketing strategy is to have a bicycle of any type a potential buyer could want, even if the buyer really has no clue as to what they’re going to do with it other than perhaps hang it in the garage and invite their pals over to admire it ? THAT I understand- it works for women’s purses!

      • The Inner Ring Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:03 am

        Riders often gain weight over the classics but it’s more that van Aert is a bigger, heavier rider than many of his rivals today.

        Paris-Roubaix remains a huge shop window, the hardest race partly exists today to provide the softest rides for Sunday cyclists: http://inrng.com/2013/04/the-hardest-race-the-softest-ride/

        • Ecky Thump Sunday, 21 April 2019, 12:47 pm

          I think what’s interesting, after the succession of dry, fast Paris-Roubaix races, is how the latest incarnation of these bikes has changed – gone, for instance, is the bowed frame of the S Works Roubaix in favour of a straighter, stiffer areo-like shape. That horrible Zertz seat post has vanished too (thank the Lord); the new model looks like a Tarmac crossover.
          I do recall the slightly muddy Roubaix a couple of years ago and seeing some of the AG2R bikes on canti brakes.
          Perhaps if there were more wet Roubaix, the CX influence would return. Especially with riders like WVA to help market them?

        • Larry T Sunday, 21 April 2019, 12:50 pm

          Thanks, but I hope Paris-Roubaix’ continued existence is based on a LOT more than providing a soft ride for Sunday cyclists.

          • Michael B Sunday, 21 April 2019, 2:14 pm

            There seems to be an awful lot of riders seeing their Di2 stuck in “crash” mode as well. If I was a contender I’d rather have the reliability of mechanical shifting for P-R.

    • Michael Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:00 am

      Good comment although I tend to agree that Gilbert indeed did change slightly. The brutal 1-5 minute efforts from a few years ago, which nobody in the world could follow are not his forte anymore. I still enjoy watching his attack on the Cauberg during the Worlds in 2012 from time to time. The way he jumped and distanced everybody is one of the most impressive things I ever saw in cycling. It would be interesting to see the power numbers from that attack. I would assume he produced around 900 W for one minute.

      • Michael B Sunday, 21 April 2019, 2:17 pm

        Hincapie was his teamate at BMC and says they’d do 4-6hr training rides and Gilbert would do the odd one minute effort at 900w, yeah. Phenomenal. To me he looks slightly bulkier nowadays so possible a touch more power, but not quite as explosive uphill. He might be quicker in a flat sprint though…

  • Richard S Saturday, 20 April 2019, 11:32 pm

    I’d be surprised if Max Schachman’s mum thought he had a better chance than Kwiatkowski in 260km hilly classic.

    • STS Sunday, 21 April 2019, 1:38 am

      Do you care to elaborate?

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:05 am

      Normally Kwiatkowksi would be higher rated but he’s an uncertain prospect because of the hard crash and besides even when he’s on top form he can have off days today.

  • STS Sunday, 21 April 2019, 1:48 am

    Nice write-up INRNG!
    Does the number of puns – which I like – indicate that you enjoy yourself – I hope so – or is it just the anticipation?
    I agree that MvdP is a red hot favourite for this race. Let’s see if he manages to handle the road furniture expo better than he did at “de Ronde”.
    Will be interesting to see whether other teams already try to prevent him from winning and which strategy they choose to do so.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 21 April 2019, 6:01 am

      Never mind the road furniture, let’s see if he can handle the Astana team.
      As much as I’ve enjoyed and been impressed by van der Poel, the collective strength of Astana, in particular, looks awfully difficult to contend with.
      Their winning form has matched that of DQS this season and they’re an extremely tactically-inventive outfit too.
      It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Astana have several riders left near the end and, if that’s the case, you may be sure that they will try something.

      • STS Sunday, 21 April 2019, 11:21 am

        Maybe I err but I don’t think AGR is a race where the current squad of Astana excels in. Isn’t it too hectic and aren’t the climbs too short?
        But sure Lutsenko should be a danger man on this course especially since he already had a high level of form some weeks ago and then did a planned racing stop in order to be fresher and even stronger for the Ardennes week.

  • hdb Sunday, 21 April 2019, 3:28 am

    For the women’s race, the best preview I’ve seen is here: https://cyclingtips.com/2019/04/preview-28-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-amstel-gold-race/

  • Motormouth Sunday, 21 April 2019, 5:00 am

    WVA and GVA but no VDP?? That’s what the dutch press has been calling him. The US seems to like MVP or MVdP.

    I can’t see past him for this one. He wants it bad.

    • Eskerrik Asko Monday, 22 April 2019, 12:16 am

      The Dutch had to leave out the M for Mathieu in order to have three syllables for the metric foot – here, a molossus, I believe, that is, three long syllables – and they couldn’t leave out the d for der because it would sound plain wrong, “van Poel” simply isn’t the same as “van der Poel”.

      I have to ask you, though: did you manage to see past him at any time during the race? Or, to put it differently, did you manage to keep up your belief in him and his chance until the very end, i.e. as long as he did?

      But you were certainly absolutely right in that he wanted it badly. Not necesssarily more than anyone else – like kitchen or armchair or locker room sports pscychology would perhaps have it – but badly enough.

      • Motormouth Monday, 22 April 2019, 2:29 am

        I did maintain my belief – keeping in mind his flanders comeback, and the general way cyclicross seems to ebb and flow.

        But holy-eeeee what a finish – the locomotive just ripped through the leaders jaja

  • David P Sunday, 21 April 2019, 7:57 am

    Pogacar for the treble

  • Digahole Sunday, 21 April 2019, 8:47 am

    Van der Poel’s ride in De Brabantse Pijl was impressive… reminded me of a younger Alaphilippe, twitchy and laying down energy burning attacks just for the hell of it. It was when Alaphilippe reigned it in that he really started winning, but the thing is it doesn’t seem to cost VDP in the same way, he’s still there at the finish. Set to be something really special as he matures.

  • Michael Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:14 am

    Dimension Data bought the entire podium from last year and I wonder how they will fare. In my opinion they are the worst team in the World Tour year after year. I don’t know what Valgren was thinking when he decided to join them.

    • STS Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:45 am

      I also wonder what’s going on at DD. And I don’t want to speculate, at least not publicly.

      OTOH the impressive collective strength of Team Astana is also something that feels
      …, not normal?

      • Michael Sunday, 21 April 2019, 8:14 pm

        So Kreuziger best at 18th, Gasparotto and Valgren outside the top40. DD really is unbelievably bad. Do they even have a performance director and coaches or are the riders training as they want?

  • AndyB Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:18 am

    Camembert, Gouda chance, love it!
    Great analysis as always INRNG!

  • Nick Sunday, 21 April 2019, 12:02 pm

    Dimension Data were well behind Cofidis at the start of the season, and we’re overtaken by Total Direct Energie in March. Should stay clear of Israel Academy though.

  • Steppings Sunday, 21 April 2019, 2:52 pm

    Going for my fave Mr Pip Gilbert.

  • TDog Sunday, 21 April 2019, 3:44 pm

    Despite seeing the Kwiato podium photo for a few years now I only just noticed that the podium girls (women?) are wearing dresses made from Amstel bar “coasters”…..brilliant. Need to see if the Mrs. would wear such a dress. Don’t think so but worth a shot.

  • Steppings Sunday, 21 April 2019, 5:15 pm

    Dull last 2km! haha

    • JeroenK Sunday, 21 April 2019, 5:30 pm

      Yeah, I got too bored and switched channels. I guess Alaphilippe outsprinted Fuglsang in the end? 😉 😉

  • DJS Sunday, 21 April 2019, 5:41 pm

    Tomorrow – the moment the race was lost? What a final! Fantastic win by VDP who mocks all ‘laws’ of racing.

  • Paul Sunday, 21 April 2019, 5:50 pm

    WOW – Gret predictions Mr inrng, what a fantastic finish my pic of the season so far!

  • Joe Saroni Sunday, 21 April 2019, 8:34 pm

    Wow!! The moment the rave was won….when MVP realized that if he does not ride, he will not win. Love to see, I lose if I do nothing, so lets risk winning. Who cares if I pull the competition with me. Can’t wait to watch him race this week.

    • Ecky Thump Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:22 pm

      Exactly.
      The contrast with last year’s race couldn’t have been starker.
      Oh, and my next bike is definitely a Canyon Aeroad 🔥

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:25 pm

      That’s it for him on the road, his next race is likely to be on a mountain bike.

      • JeroenK Sunday, 21 April 2019, 9:40 pm

        It is. World Cup MTB in Albstadt. Tune in on redbull.tv and watch some fine combination of endurance and skill! It says a lot about the level of that sport that Mathieu has not won a world cup yet. I think it deserves way more mainstream attention (and better quality coverage) than it gets, especially if you take into account the huge number of recreational mountainbikers. Being the road cycling superstar that he has just become, maybe MvdP can attract some attention to the beautiful sport that is MTB.

        • SamA Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:20 am

          The trouble with XC mtb is that typically the racing is not that interesting to watch. More often than not it’s simply a sylvan time trial.

      • Joe K. Monday, 22 April 2019, 7:16 am

        Probably many in the pro peloton (especially Alaphillipe) are breathing a sigh of relief about that. I think we are getting a glimpse of what it must have been like over 40 years ago when Eddy Merckx arrived on the scene. Tremendous fun, indeed!

        • Larry T Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:40 am

          Perhaps, the guy does appear well on his way to being the next Eddy…er… Fons De Wolf. But he still needs to win a couple of monuments before his career fizzles out to equal De Wolf. There’s no argument MVdP’s a physical force with a never-say-die attitude, but his demonstration of race tactics leaves a lot to be desired. I will admit many (me included) would probably be lauding the guy if his long-range attack had worked, but when it didn’t his win was a gift from those who futzed around at the end and let him back into contention. I had to laugh when they blamed TV for that. Ooops, technology backfires big time!!!

          • brent Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:11 am

            I didn’t think his attack was to far out, a bit unlucky on who followed. What should have been the winning move was only a few k’s later. Sometimes it just depends on who follows or chases as to whether it will stick.

          • Richard S Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:15 am

            A tough day for you yesterday no doubt Larry. The new kid on the block, who you have taken a perplexing dislike to, winning in astounding fashion after ripping the tactics book to pieces (and getting a friendly pat on the back off Clarke at the line to boot) whilst your guy Sagan climbs in to the team car with 50k to go. Still got Liege next week though..

          • Tom Monday, 22 April 2019, 11:21 am

            Agreed. Larry, your stubborn dislike of Van der Poel is getting pretty tiresome. You even admitted you haven’t followed his CX career at all, so I just don’t understand from where (or for what reason) you’re spouting it.

          • Larry T Monday, 22 April 2019, 11:33 am

            Uh, when did Peter Sagan become “my guy”? When I suggested people leave his personal life out of their blathering about why he’s not wiping the floor with everyone? As I wrote above, let’s not forget De Wolf won two monuments before fizzling out and the panting fanboy stuff MVdP gets here well illustrates how the Fons De Wolf legend developed.
            I think what you call “perplexing dislike” is more about all the hype than the man himself though his own race craft would likely have him getting plenty of deserved criticism had the others not thrown their race away by mucking around and letting him back into it. He even admitted thinking his race was over but thought he had nothing to lose by towing that entire group behind him in pursuit. It was a lucky victory. That does not mean undeserved as he had to keep going to get it, but it wasn’t based on any real tactics or strategy – things that separate the true champions from the merely physically gifted.
            Fons De Wolf or Eddy Merckx? Only time will tell, but my money’s on the former. Perhaps you could relate better to Frank Vandenbroucke as the same hype, different era?

          • Richard S Monday, 22 April 2019, 2:51 pm

            Why so obsessed with Fons de Wolf? Riders have burst onto the scene and stayed good too!

          • JeroenK Monday, 22 April 2019, 1:19 pm

            Larry, you don’t have to like MvdP. You can have other favorites or like other styles of racing. You can like someone who does everything right tactically and rides the perfect race. I get that. MvdP did everything wrong and he still won. Yes, others gave him the opportunity – that’s bike racing.

            But why the clearly negative side..? Your prediction of a quick demise has as much f0undation as him being the next Eddy, or whatever that is in the modern cycling world. The guy had no experience on the Pro Tour level, a weak team compared to others and he still made a big impact. It would have been easy to sit in and follow the wheels, but he took initiative in a world completely new for him. If others are impressed, does that make them panting fanboys? If you are quickly irritated by that, you should not watch sports at all. People seem to rave quickly about remarkable races and performances.

          • max Monday, 22 April 2019, 6:57 pm

            Picking on poor Fons De Wolf from an absolutely different era.
            After Fonzies breakout years of 1980-81, look at his April racing in 1982, he hit em all:
            https://www.procyclingstats.com/rider/fons-de-wolf/1982

            That’s a recipe for burnout.
            Cycling stars no longer have to do that.

          • Tom Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 1:20 am

            Fons de Wolf still won two monuments, who cares if he didn’t live up to the label that he probably never courted himself?

            I’ve never been a massive MvdP fan. Following him and WVA through CX, I’ve always tended toward WVA. However, I also follow the XCO circuit, and road, and the fact that MvdP can stack season on season and punch at the top of each code defies all of my preconceptions about specialising and holding form. It’s truly impressive.

            My issue with Larry T’s dislike is it’s obviously some pre-conceived and baffling dislike that he retrospectively (and spuriously) justifies with each MvdP performance. Tactically, maybe he shouldn’t have dragged the whole chase group across, but I don’t see how anyone can ignore the fact that sprinting everybody off his wheel was a phenomenal effort.

          • Eskerrik Asko Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 2:35 am

            Larry T asked: “Uh, when did Peter Sagan become “my guy”? When I suggested people leave his personal life out of their blathering about why he’s not wiping the floor with everyone?”
            Larry, Larry, Larry…
            Petar Sagan became your guy (in the sense used here) when you, entirely out of your own whatever, picked him as the rider you compared Mathieu van der Poel to: “One thing I have noticed is how few of his fellow competitors come over and congratulate him on a win compared to a guy like Sagan who the entire peloton seems to like and respect. No argument as to the man’s current talent, but OTHO he’s far from someone I’ll be rooting for.”
            This was, like, the day before yesterday.
            But if Peter Sagan wasn’t anywhere near to being someone you were rooting for (or someone you could have been rooting for if you rooted for any rider at all) or someone you could like and respect if you were riding in the peloton, then I don’t know what.

          • Davesta Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 10:43 am

            The thing about tactics, is that they’re all relative to the skillset of any given rider – sitting in and waiting for a sprint isn’t good tactics if you’re a rubbish sprinter. Going on a 45km solo raid isn’t good tactics if you time trial like a parachute.
            If MvdP can sprint from the front, away from (and past) an elite group of classics contenders, then I’d say it’s pretty good tactics from him to ride back to the front of the race and sprint past everyone to take the win.

            Perhaps he got lucky that Alaphillipe & Fulgsang were both racing tactically themselves. But that’s bike racing. It’s no different to the luck that’s experienced when you attack at 35km to go and the strongest climber in the race follows you. Or the bad luck that’s experienced when you attack at 45km and Gorka Izaguirre refuses to ride. Everything in a bike race that somebody other than yourself does is luck or circumstance. MvdP made his own luck. It might not be the most refined version of ‘chess on wheels’, but I’d say that’s bloody good tactics!

          • Larry T Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 11:46 am

            Davesta wrote: “If MvdP can sprint from the front, away from (and past) an elite group of classics contenders, then I’d say it’s pretty good tactics from him to ride back to the front of the race and sprint past everyone to take the win.”
            No argument there as he certainly did just that, except for this quote: “I didn’t believe anymore that I was racing for the win. Only in the finishing straight did I see them all riding up ahead. I played it all or nothing and it became everything.”

  • Martin D Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:36 pm

    Wow! That was a memorable few days for VDP. I thought Brabantse was very impressive, but this win goes beyond normal vocabulary – it’s a force majeur!

  • GB Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:47 pm

    Long-time reader, first-time poster, prompted to do so by MvdP’s performance today. His run of results since he started his road season is truly impressive. As noted above his approach today was a breath of fresh air, he was willing to chase and work to give himself a chance, what was then as, or more impressive, was that he was then able to finish it off. What also amazes me is that he has got the results he has with seemingly scant-regard for ‘energy-saving’. Will be interesting to see if he drags C-C towards a bid for World Tour status.

  • cp Monday, 22 April 2019, 1:13 am

    I would love to know what went through Alaphilippe’s mind about 500m from the finish…
    Wow!

  • 3rdMoment (@3rdMoment) Monday, 22 April 2019, 5:28 am

    Quote from Alaphilippe
    “At two kilometres from the finish, the director of the race told us that we had a 35-second lead. That means those riders raced 15 seconds per kilometre faster than we did. I think that’s impossible.”

    Sorry Julian, check the video. Upon examination, the following gaps can defnitiely be established:

    * 3km to go sign: Kwiat is 37 sec behind, VDP is 58 behind.
    * Slovakian flag at 1.9 to go: Schachman 27 behind (with VDP more than 5 behind him)
    * End of hedge/photog on left in grass at 1.5 to go: VDP 23 behind

    After that you can’ tell anything until the final KM. But the broadcast gaps seem to have been quite accurate.

    • hoh Monday, 22 April 2019, 6:35 am

      Time gap is just an estimation and was all over the place yesterday. Can’t say why, maybe an experienced hand just retired from the TV production or they try to use some machine learning to do the estimation and went horribly wrong.

      The broadcaster also missed various groups on the road from time to time and didn’t mention the MVDP group at all for a long time. Had a sneaky conspiracy theory that they were trying to help MVDP by concealing his approach.

      • hoh Monday, 22 April 2019, 6:37 am

        A genuine question, how do broadcasters/race official actually calculate the time gaps? Who actually is in charge of that task?

        • Alex Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:28 am

          Time gaps typically have different and parallel sources.

          Often there are GPS trackers placed on specific vehicles or motos and the gap shown on TV is between those trackers and it assumes they are following specific groups.

          TV networks have their own trackers on vehicles (e.g. TV motos) while race management have them on commissaire and other official vehicles as well (mainly for overall event and emergency management purposes). They will be in radio contact with the moto TV crew so check which group on the road hey are currently with. Obviously there are only so many groups that can be legitimately followed.

          It’s one reason the gaps on TV move up and down so much during key moments and when the terrain is variable as vehicle’s placement relative to riders varies quite a lot due to race status and road conditions.

          Is the moto behind or in front of the riders? Does it move from one relative location to the other? Does it move well ahead up the road to give rider’s space on the descent? Is it caught behind riders getting dropped? Is it passing dropped riders to catch back up to the remaining group? All of these things will mean the gaps between vehicles won’t always reflect what the actual gaps between riders are, and is why you’l often see the gaps vary quite quickly at times.

          Race officials take their own time gaps using stopwatches, communicating via official’s radio channel and picking distinctive markers on the side of the road. They do this for convoy management purposes as much as for race status updates conveyed by race radio.

          e.g Commissaire 2 vehicle (at the front) radios to the following Commissaire vehicle (typically Commissaire 1 / President / Chief) that the leaders are passing “such-and-such” a sign in 3, 2, 1, NOW! The following vehicle then looks for that time checkpoint and they stop their watch when they see the group they are following pass the same marker. If there are multiple groups sometimes one vehicle can see more than one group and get both time checks, and clocks are also started in commissaire vehicles further back to also report on those gaps.

          What race radio conveys to the race convoy depends in part on which vehicle race radio is located and the source of time checks they hear. It varies by country how that’s managed. In races I drive race radio is typically located with Commissaire 1.

          The more variable the terrain and the more frantic the status of the race is and the fewer obvious time check points available (needs to be readily viewable from the vehicle – keep in mind the visual distance to the head of the peloton ahead from the following vehicle) the more difficult it becomes.

          • The Inner Ring Monday, 22 April 2019, 10:26 am

            That’s a great summary of how it works for TV (via GPS data) and the race convoy (via commissaires which is shared to riders via race radio and then team radios.

            Two extra notes, teams will often have TVs inside their cars but if it’s “live”, it’s usually with a delay of anything from 10s to 50s so can be wrong; also the Amstel’s TV time gaps can be very approximate, sometimes if I have my phone within reach I’ll use the stopwatch feature to try and get my own time gaps and doing this yesterday you could see things closing up in the final 3km, eg as the vdP group caught Trentin and had Kwiatkowski in their sights before reaching the long finishing straight.

          • Larry T Monday, 22 April 2019, 3:38 pm

            My wife pointed out this race may be a rare example of technology contributing to a more exciting result instead of what is often seen as taking away the excitement. Otherwise we might have seen a repeat of the Strade Bianche finish.
            The final question of course is how anyone could have managed to race before there were TV screens in the cars and radio earpieces on the racers? Who did their thinking for them back-in-the-day?

          • Acciaio Monday, 22 April 2019, 4:35 pm

            Also worth bearing in mind that you can only measure a time gap to the position of the chaser. Once the leaders are passing the 3km to go point the chasers haven’t got there yet, they are told the time difference measured at a point further back the road, which could be the position of the chasers at that exact point in time, say 3.something km to go but likely in a moving situation further back again. This gives the chasers more than 3km to catch up the time.

          • hoh Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:42 pm

            So the time gap basically is how long ago did the leaders pass through the chasers’ current position. An entirely pointless number.

            It doesn’t take in what the leaders were doing once they passed that point. The leaders could have passed the point 10 minutes ago and decided to sit at the road side 100 meter on. By this method it could still show a 10minutes time gap.

          • STS Monday, 22 April 2019, 11:22 pm

            Thanks for your explanation, Alex.
            As you’re obviously still in that “business” do you know whether TV screens in the team cars are still allowed as some here seem to suggest? As far as I believe to know they have been forbidden by the UCI a few seasons ago. That was compounded recently when I read some team manager saying that they need someone outside of their cars sitting in front of a TV / computer who relays the information obtained from watching the race footage to the directeur sportif in the car.

          • CInjet Monday, 22 April 2019, 11:57 pm

            Thanks! Here is a Twitter thread (in Dutch) regarding the time differences and moto drafting etc: https://twitter.com/thijszonneveld/status/1120247416006086656

            And another one about speeds (which are incredible but don’t seem that weird all the same): https://twitter.com/thijszonneveld/status/1120256520036474880

          • Alex Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 1:10 pm

            I should have added, in many races there is a 4th source of time gap data – often there is a moto dedicated to doing time checks and relaying that to the riders and convoy via a blackboard (or whiteboard).

            They do that by riding up to the leading group and picking a good spot to start their watch. They then wait for the chasing groups to pass that point to record the gaps. Often they will begin moving off just before the peloton arrives so as to avoid having to pass the peloton but hang about long enough to display the gaps to the front part of peloton before heading back up to the groups ahead to also show them the latest time check. Lather, rinse, repeat.

            Sometimes they will also drop back through the whole peloton to convey the time gaps to all and to the convoy vehicles as well. What and when they do this depends a fair bit on what they hear race radio communicating (e.g. if there is no need for them to drop back since their gaps are consistent with what race radio is reporting) as avoiding having to re-pass the peloton is preferred. In particular when the course is tight, twisting and difficult to navigate past a large group of riders, then the timing moto will avoid dropping back through the peloton.

            As to use of TVs in vehicles, I’m not certain on the current regulations and my prime experience is with driving commissaires, not so much team cars. That said getting updates from a stationary support person with TV access would not be hard in any case in today’s mobile connected world. Besides, with races streaming over the internet, not sure how it can realistically be policed when one only needs a tablet or phone on which to view livestreams.

            I think this is a topic worthy of an Inrng blog post – it’s a part of the informal racing infrastructure, not one that is codified (aside from the official race timing for placement purposes) but rather one of those behind the scenes functions which has many aspects and subtleties of its own. And as we can see, can itself have an impact on the race outcomes, tactics, strategies and entertainment value.

        • bcb Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:33 am

          Nah…. if there was any semblance of a conspiracy you would have noticed something as obvious as the race referee punching the air when Mathieu Van Der Poel crossed the finishing line! Well he only did it 3-4 times.. that doesn’t count surely?

          • Jeff Monday, 22 April 2019, 3:51 pm

            Interesting theory… It seems a lot more likely that Fuglsang and Alaphilippe were just playing poker with each other (as they’ve said in the news) since their duel in Strade Bianche.

            MVDP wasn’t the only one to catch them. Kwiat caught them easily as well. Fuglsang and Alaphilippe were just riding too slowly

          • hoh Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:32 pm

            However, if MVDP’s group is closely monitored and reported, surely the leaders would know they are coming up from the team car.

            Of course my conspiracy theory was just a joke.

          • hoh Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:36 pm

            Also, as Larry would point out, if they are silly enough to trust the time gap, they’ve only got themselves to blame.

    • SamA Monday, 22 April 2019, 8:27 am

      Added to that – it’s entirely possible to lose a 35s gap in 2 km if you are soft pedalling and playing games – that’s what did for them! Alaphilippe lost by not having the confidence he’d take Fuglsang in a sprint even if he rode hard all the way to the line.

      • brent Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:17 am

        They used to calculate the gaps by the motorcycles I think. If the motor cycles moved position a bit the times would change a lot . example the bike moves forward or back of a group. Used to see it in the TDF with big groups and large time swings from time to time.
        Anyway at some point they could have visibly seen them.
        Alaphilippe did not have to ride that hard they had a good gap just a tempo with a sprint. He got caught out and started his sprint to early to get back to KWIAT which is probably the only reason he got outsprinted by fulsang. He needed to be calm and measure his speed a bit better. No good slowing even more and hoping somebody would come through when you are the obvious sprinter of the pair.

        • JeroenK Monday, 22 April 2019, 5:18 pm

          Sam, there are some calculations on Twitter that prove your point of soft pedaling. In the last kms, he speed difference is 10km/hr at the very least. If you soft pedal, a frantic chase gains a lot of time on you fast. They gambled, misjudged the freshness of the chasers and the terrain that favoured them and they lost… there’s no point blaming the information, motorbikes or whatever.

  • Jeff Monday, 22 April 2019, 3:48 pm

    A few thoughts – I love the “never say die” attitude of MVDP’s chase. If you don’t chase, you lose. If you do chase, you may still lose, but you have a small chance of winning. Too many riders write off their chances prematurely. Kudos to MVDP for bucking the dogma.

    • John Irvine Monday, 22 April 2019, 5:33 pm

      I think it also matters that Amstel was his main and final road goal this spring. Others may have been thinking to keep a little in the bag for Flèche and Liège. MVdP left nothing on the table. And to see him literally on the ground after both Pils and Amstel shows he really does give it his all. A spent and happy man.

      • Rooto Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:21 pm

        “literally on the ground after both Pils and Amstel”
        Great typo! It sounds like a great celebration, he deserved it…

  • Andrew Monday, 22 April 2019, 5:41 pm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfons_De_Wolf

    Never having heard of Fons De Wolf previously, I had to Google him. Not EM, but I can think of a lot of people who wouldn’t mind this palmares.

    You also have to wonder whether his diminishing results as the 80’s progressed says more about him or about the people he was racing against.

    • Larry T Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:28 pm

      The list of “Next Eddy Merckx” is rather long and I’d say those expectations were of no help to the men put on that list, especially when I’d guess NONE of ’em ever asked to be added. My guess is MVdP would say the same if he was asked….he probably has been and it’s been put up somewhere online, but I’m not going to search for it.
      For every Merckx, Hinault or Gilbert on the Amstel Gold winner’s list there’s a DiLuca, Gianetti or Schleck, so I’m not getting on the “Next Eddy Merckx” bandwagon any time soon.

      • Andrew Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:53 pm

        That label seems to applied more to Evenpoel, with perhaps less justification. Or perhaps even more unfairly, given his youth.

      • gabriele Monday, 22 April 2019, 11:11 pm

        Di Luca was quite a classy cyclist, of a rare kind in modern times, that is, capable to grab victories both in Classics and in GTs. After all, besides Amstel he’s won one Giro and a couple of Monuments (Liège and Lombardia), and not by pure chance, since he’s also got several top-tens in all those races. Add Flèche, Emilia, Milano-Torino, Tre Valli, plus stages in both Giro and Vuelta, and a good deal of other lesser stuff.

        Yes, he didn’t face great competition at the Giro, but OTOH he had to race against a huge generation of hilly classics specialists: Bartoli, Bettini, Valverde, Rebellin, with the likes of Boogerd, Vinokourov, Cunego etc. as supporting cast. Probably one of the highest level ever.

        I mean, generally speaking he did surely better than Fons, who on turn didn’t that bad, either – as others have underlined above. And clearly a step or two (or three) above Gianetti or Frank Schleck – and Andy, too, as long as I’m concerned, at least in terms of results.

        • Larry T Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 8:48 am

          Certainly – IF you ignore The Killer from Spoltore’s various doping issues, something he has (not that I really considered this when I listed those names, but…) in common with the other two as well.
          But my larger point was MVdP has already been put onto the “Next Eddy Merckx” list by many. This Amstel victory’s got them even more breathless but this race has plenty of winners who ended up a long, long way from the kind of career Merckx had, so count me out of the ceremonies proclaiming him the next-big-thing. Too bad he can’t be at L-B-L, it would be interesting to see what he could do there in his current form.
          Finally (I promise!) the white shorts have got to go!! 🙂

          • Eskerrik Asko Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 11:49 am

            Larry, your life as a cycling fan – and our lives as Inner Ring readers and commens section followers – would be much more enjoyable if you could just forget about thinking about the hype and how everyone else is somehow blinded by the hype!
            Concentrate on the riders and aspects of the race – and, indeed, of cycle racing as it, for better or worse, is today – that you can comment positively on. I have no doubt that you can add immensely to our understanding and enjoyment of the sport with your knowledge and experience of all things Italian, for instance.
            Leave out the negative, snide, derogatory, bitching and plain nasty remarks that always lurk behind the facade of the most matter of fact negative remarks we make, all the time thinking that we are just stating the facts and correcting the pictured distored by the hype or by the fan boys’ point of view.
            Try it for a couple of weeks and see how it feels, will you?
            PS This is a piece of advice I would give anyone – and that I try to remind myself of at regular intervals.
            PPS Sorry if this all smacked of some kind of holier-than-thou attitude, but that isn’t the case, I hope.

          • gabriele Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 10:35 pm

            Not ignoring that, just considering it barely relevant. The guy was *tuned* by his family’s GP, as you read it, and wasn’t part of any known serious team doping programme, besides having no support whatsoever by cycling institutions. Which doesn’t mean *clean*, not at all, but you can be quite sure that the sporting effects of his malpractice can be seen in relative terms, given that several of his competitors enjoyed the care of top specialists and/or a full team programme run by internal or external doctors and/or institutional cover-up. If you’re throwing in the bin whomever can be labelled as “a doper” (a POV I’m utterly against), without taking into consideration whether that really mattered much in defining their palmarés, then good ol’ Eddy and Bernie, too, might be ticked off your list, not just Gianetti and Frank Schleck (and I’m not speaking of Gilbert only because I’m including only proven facts, although irrespective of their result in terms of official sanctions).

  • RQS Monday, 22 April 2019, 9:54 pm

    That finish was absolutely ridiculous. The timings might have been out of whack. But MVdP basically towed the peloton to the finish so fast no one overtook him. The lead group of competitors, who had been marking each other, started their sprint, MVdP didn’t even draw breath and outsprinted them. This guy was on another planet. Truly.

  • Joe K. Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 6:41 am

    When I made the reference to Merckx in my comment above, I didn’t mean to imply that MVdP is the “next Eddy Merckx.” I wanted to say that it is fun to see a new-comer who is so dominant over the competition. Only time will tell whether he is the real-deal, but for now, let’s just enjoy the show.